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Making Money From Travel Photography: Is it Possible in 2020?

Photography is more competitive than ever before. With the growth of smartphones and cheap flights, travel photography is starting to lose its value. As a creative, you have to ask yourself how are you going to stand out from the crowd and more importantly, how will you make money from your hobby or profession.

Make money from travel photos

In this article, we will provide some clear insight into this growing question. By the end of reading this, you should at least have some more direction on how to sell your travel photos better to make ends meet.

Don't Sell Yourself Short. Know Your Value

First things first, you need to know your value. As creatives sometimes we undervalue what we are doing by undercharging clients. Sure, anyone can take a photo, but remember - no one can take a photo like you! So before we begin, let's look at the prices you should be charging clients for your travel images.

When dealing with any client, you must understand three important things before providing usage:

  • What does the client intend on doing with your image?
  • Where do they plan on using your image - locally or worldwide?
  • How long do they want to license your image?

Determining these three important criteria will help you make money from your travel photography. Below are some of the ways you can adopt these measures to line your bank balance with some helpful cash.

Network and Become a Commercial Travel Photographer To Bring In The Big Bucks

Easily the most lucrative form of photography, commercial photography brings on the big budgets. Think big. Clients like Uber, Airbnb and Expedia all have marketing departments and dedicated Content Curators/Art Departments (a fancy way of saying someone who sources image use).

Sell your travel photos to commercial clients such as Airbnb

Getting your work in front of these clients is by far, one of the best ways to make money. So how do you do this? 

Well, you need to mingle within their network. Involve yourself in the conversations in the corporate world. Head over to LinkedIn and dip your toe in the water. Share your images and stories on the platform and naturally reach out to people who are active in marketing departments. In this world, you have to hustle. Sitting at home with photos on your website just won't cut it anymore - competition is fierce.

Here’s What To Charge For Commercial Usage - All Formats

Once you have someone contact you make sure you ask the three golden questions mentioned above. If the person comes back to you and says, they want two years, with worldwide use on all formats don't give them what you would charge your friend. Change your mindset. If you truly want to make money, stand by your travel images and know their true value. Expect a budget from anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000.

Sell your travel images to commercial clients

Here’s What To Charge For Social Media Commercial Usage

Something you are bound to see more of is smaller companies wanting to use your images to promote their business or services. As a travel photographer, you no doubt would have taken photos of hotel rooms, accommodation, eateries and iconic destinations. All of these images appeal to marketers wanting to drive traffic to their business. In the case of them reaching out, you need to consider the business size and also the three golden questions.

To make money from your travel photography when the clients want to use your images on social media, you still need to know your value. There are two ways to sell yourself in this scenario. 

If the client has a budget, you should be charging at least $250 to $350 per image for social media use. If the client wishes to you your travel photography for any other purpose, you need to charge them separately.

If the client doesn't have a budget, but they are engaging with, you consider a different option. In this situation, you should negotiate to save yourself money while getting some amazing images at the same time. Consider exchanging photos for free stays, flights and meals. These expenses add up, and if you can walk about with money still in your pocket, then that's a great thing. What you find in these situations is you leave with more images from the iconic location that you can sell to other commercial clients.

Dive Into Reputable Stock Photography Sites

The age-old question - as a travel photographer should you get into stock photography? The answer is YES! Stock photography can be hit and miss, however, if you choose the right stock agencies to represent your work, then you may well be on to a winner. For instance, if you look at a company called Stocksy, which operates as a co-op, then if someone sells an image - you all win.

Consider Stocksy for Stock Photography

You want to avoid stock sites that undervalue your work, either through discounted memberships of bulk downloads. While clients flock to these sites, it is not worth your time or money to upload your amazing travel photos. Instead, focus on quality and remember - don't undervalue yourself or your work. Why earn 40c per image when you can earn $50 or $125?

Teach Others Your Skillset

Have you considered yourself someone to know a thing or two about travel photography? Well, maybe you should consider creating a course and selling it to other photographers. This strategy can be beneficial if you have influence and followers. If you are on the other side of the fence and deem yourself as a creator, then joining a platform such as Udemy or Skillshare might be a better fit. Just be aware that these sites have quite many photographers on them. Therefore if you want to succeed, you have to think outside the square and offer something no one has seen before. 

To differentiate yourself, this could be a photographic technique you use using Neutral Density or even a guide on your editing techniques (if you are an award winner). You want to avoid creating courses such as "How to use a camera" or "How to photograph in manual mode". These courses have been done to death, create them again, and your bank balance will deplete.

By creating such a course, you could rake in anywhere from $100 to $200. Although realistically, this could be as little as $39. Remember if every little bit helps.

Save Money on Gear - Become a Brand Ambassador and Make Money

If you have been active in the industry, then no doubt you may have thought of becoming a brand ambassador. Camera manufacturers are always on the lookout for talent. The benefit of being a brand ambassador means you are likely to receive free equipment. For instance, some Canon brand ambassadors receive travel and a budget for free equipment each year. This can be hugely beneficial to making money from the opportunity (and the other opportunities that arise from these collabs).

Travel Photographer with Leather Camera Strap in Snow Japan

To become a brand ambassador is hard. Around 99% of photographers go about this the wrong way. They approach the brand they want to work with via email or direct message and ask for free gear. Instead, if you want to become a paid brand advocate, then all you need to do is create consistent work and let your influence be your business card. Talk about the brand in a positive light, and you could well be on your way to making money from your travel photography.

Marketing teams are always on the lookout for talented photographers who are void of ego and have good moral standing. Photography comes second. So if you want to catch the attention of a brand, work for them and line your pockets with free equipment in the process, then be consistent in everything you do. Some good examples of people who have done this successfully include Elia Locardi (Fujifilm Ambassador) and Colby Brown (Sony Ambassador).

Sell Your Photos On Different Formats

Like all photographers selling your photos and seeing them on the walls of clients is the ultimate dream. However, for many photographers, they don't even allow the public to purchase their photos. Instead, photos tend to sit on hard drives awaiting an editing day. If that's the case, consider changing your workflow by outsourcing some of the printing.

Bali Surfer Travel Photography

Dropshipping is a great alternative print-on-demand method for travel photographers. Rather than put all your money into housing a gallery of prints, you can focus on travelling to new destinations. For this system to work, you have to have good software management in place if you are implementing this yourself. Or if you don't want to spend your time updating your website with code, consider a marketplace like Smugmug, RedBubble or Etsy.

On these platforms, you can showcase your images on calendars, canvas prints or even magnets. The list is endless. While you might be paying a fee for every sale to be on one of these platforms, it's worth it for those who want to take photos. Depending on the platform, you can expect to earn smaller amounts of money. However, this avenue isn't typically something you can rely on to make a full time living off.

Break The Mould and Be Unique

As photographers, we need to diversify from others in the industry to capture a new market share. You can do this by creating a unique look or by marketing your photos on different platforms. For instance, have you considered or LinkedIn? Photographers underutilise both of these platforms. So make sure you start an account (Voice may take some time to get an invite to join) but in the end, it could be beneficial to your back pocket.

Catch the attention of marketers on LinkedIn

Monetise Your Social Following With an Affiliate Program

Have you considered affiliate programs such as Amazon Affiliates, B&H or even Adorama? By referring your audience through special links, you could start earning a small commission if people end up buying a product within a specific time (normally 30 days). While commissions might be small at only 4% to 6%, the cost of photography equipment makes it worthwhile, especially if you have a constant stream of traffic on your blog or YouTube channel.

Consider YouTube Brand Deals and Google Ads For Your Travel Videos

With YouTube increasing views each day, there is no better time to start a YouTube channel. While the barrier of ad revenue has changed since a few years ago, it's still achievable to make money from your travel photography videos. All you need is to put a high level of production, some good ideas and a bit of a story. Publish at least once a week, and you will be well on your way to making a small amount of money from ad revenue. Overtime opportunities will also arise with brand deals. For instance, a camera or lens manufacturer may be in contact to see if you would like to review equipment. You can charge a fee for this, but know that it is subject to the number of followers, views and engagement you have on your channel.

Don't Give Up: Making Money From Travel Photography Takes Time

As you can see, there are multiple ways you can make money from your travel photography this year. While some of these ways won't be sustainable, every little bit of revenue helps. That's why we recommend coming up with a formula for success. Consider what each shoot looks like, from going out to publishing your photos. Along each step of the process, you can monetise your workflow.

Film your behind the scenes shoots for YouTube

For instance, planning for your shoot might be a Live Stream video with your audience. Follow this by filming behind the scenes on location, after which you can upload the final video to YouTube and include affiliate links. Then it's about sharing your content to your social channels and reaching the commercial budget-holders on LinkedIn. Whatever you end up doing, remember success won't happen overnight. Instead, be realistic, put in the effort and hustle and over three to four years the fruits of your labour may thank you with a full-time income

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